John Updike: A & P

I first read this story in a collection of short stories that I borrowed from the American Library here in Madras. Those were the days when one could walk into the library without having to go through forbidding security checks and formalities.  And those were the days when the library was a library, by which I mean a collection of books, and when there were books in a section called LITERATURE. Subsequently everything changed and I missed my favourite books that I used to borrow once in two years or so. Now even an honorary membership does not attract me, though this library is just a couple of IPL sixers’ away from my home.

In this 1961 story, the central character is Sammy, a counter-clerk in  a grocery store. He is bored of his routine job. The bunch of old, testy female customers and a martinet of a store manager annoy him. Into the store one day a trio of girls in beachwear saunter. Sammy’s heart leaps and, with one eye on the eyeful among the trio as they walk around browsing the shelves, he is not able to pay full attention to one of the above-mentioned regular customers. The manager notices this and gives a piece of his mind not only to his employee but also to the girls to whom he lectures that they can’t come into a store in that kind of dress and with sand sticking to their feet. Sammy feels terribly let down – not only for himself but also for the bunch of girls who are all of similar age as himself.

Sammy is a representative of a whole lot of younger generation rebelling against authority and lack of freedom.

On the spur of the moment he takes a momentous decision. In all our lives there comes a time when we have to follow our own heart and make a choice – whatever its repercussions be.

This story by the popular American writer John Updike, who passed away early this year, is not available online. But you are sure to get it in a library.


4 Responses to John Updike: A & P

  1. Ganesh says:

    Is this the whole story?

    Thanks for talking about a story belonging to a very different genre today 🙂

    By the way, I had requested for a hold and finally got in my hands, a copy of Tom Sharpe’s ‘Porterhouse Blue’, from the local public library. I had placed the hold after reading the humourous short story (an extract from the book) linked from your blog.

  2. cgrishikesh says:

    Yes, it is!
    Great that you have tracked it down.
    I am also happy that my suggestions are being followed up even when a link to the story is not available or when I have not been able to locate it myself.
    Considering the changes that have taken place in the U.S., this story, written in 1961, may be dated but the core point is still relevant, I think. I daresay youngsters in many countries still suffer like Sammy.
    Whenever I am in CA, one of the ways I spend time is to get loads of books from the local library and read or reread a story or two a day.
    Once I used to read novels (a whole list of favourite authors is there) but now I have little patience to wade through hundreds of pages before a sense of completion comes in me.

  3. A clear account of the workings of a young male psyche!!!Funny MALE psyche!!!How I wish such managers still existed!!!

  4. cgrishikesh says:


    I generally reread a story before I write my post.

    But the one on A&P was written from memory as I could not locate the link. (It is not in any book that I have in my library.)

    So thanks for giving me a chance to reread it.

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